Large numbers of Israelis joined protests against the coalition’s judicial reforms over the weekend.
There were estimates of 130,000 to 160,000 in Tel Aviv, with smaller gatherings in cities across the country. Protest organizers estimated that around 300,000 attended protests nationwide.
In Tel Aviv, demonstrators blocked the Ayalon highway for several hours, burning tires and wooden planks.
Fire lit during Israeli anti-gov't protests on Tel Aviv's Ayalon Highway pic.twitter.com/3YI9aB8L9P— Allyn Fisher-Ilan (@AFilan) February 25, 2023
The police initially tried to restrain the protestors from blocking the highway but were overwhelmed by the large numbers.
Several police officers were injured by violent demonstrators, and 21 people were arrested for their role in the violence.
Coalition leaders spoke out against the violence and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said the violence demonstrates “that this is a protest of anarchists.” He called on opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz to “immediately condemn the anarchic riot and incitement.”
Former Defense Minister Gantz spoke at the demonstration in Haifa, where he said that Netanyahu “should strike at the enemies of the state and not at the citizens of the state.”
He also said opposition leaders would continue to fight for Israel and make sure that it “would be what is written in the Declaration of Independence.”
נתניהו - אתה צריך להלום באויבי המדינה ולא להלום באזרחי המדינה.— בני גנץ - Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) February 25, 2023
לא נרד מהארץ, נמשיך לשרת אותה, נמשיך להיאבק עליה ונדאג שהיא תהיה מה שכתוב במגילת העצמאות.
מדבריי הערב בהפגנה בחיפה >> pic.twitter.com/T6IfMtfbMx
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, speaking at the Tel Aviv protest, addressed President Isaac Herzog and said the time has come to choose sides.
"Mr. President, the time has come to say, are you on the side of the D9 bulldozer, or the side of the Declaration of Independence?" Barak asked.
Barak also said that negotiations cannot happen unless the coalition stops the legislation.
“When there is a gun at your head, first it must be removed. Only when the legislation is canceled will it be possible to consider dialogue,” Barak said, continuing the use of violent imagery to discuss the judicial reforms seen in other opposition leaders.
Herzog has attempted to remain neutral, as he calls on both sides to enter into negotiations over the proposed reforms. Earlier in the year, a study showed that the office of the president is one of the few institutions trusted by a broad section of the population. Herzog has said he is trying to use that trust to bring the sides to negotiations.
While coalition leaders have said they are fulfilling the will of the people by bringing judicial reform, recent polls show there is an increasing trend against the reforms. A poll released by Channel 12 news revealed that 60% of those polled did not agree that the reforms were what the people wanted.
In a poll of Likud voters, they asked if the voters were aware when they voted that the coalition was planning “meaningful judicial reform." Fifty-four percent of the Likud respondents said they were not aware, while only 36% said they were aware of the planned reform.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.